- Keep a canvas/mesh bag on you for spontaneous shop visits. I’ve pretty much got my normal weekly food shop down without creating rubbish, but whenever I’m caught out it’s when I’m travelling or out and I remember I need something because I have no option but to take a plastic bag in the shop. You’re best off with one fabric bag on you for ’emergencies’ 🙂
- Cloth for dry goods, mesh for produce. I made my own small drawstring bags to store food in when I go bulk shopping, but you don’t have to search hard online to buy them if you’re not craftily inclined. I use cloth (calico) bags for grains, nuts etc. because these products can be crumbly. Using mesh bags for produce is often helpful in markets and supermarkets however, because the checkout person needs to know what and how many items you have.
- If it looks impossible, ask anyway. This one is generally more effective the smaller the business (some large companies have annoying policies on stuff), but still. There may be plastic/paper bags laid out for you to use, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to ask ‘is it alright if I use my own bags?’ or ‘would you mind putting that in my own container please?’ I worked myself up to ask someone to put my smoothie in my own bottle a few weeks back (pictured above), and she was just like ‘yeah no problem!’ The worst that’ll happen is they’ll say no, so you have nothing to lose.
- Package-free first, recyclable second, and try to avoid plastic. This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but prioritise buying package-free items first, then settle for recyclable packaging (non-plastic) next. Cardboard and glass are widely recycled, but even if your council technically collects your plastic, most of it won’t be recycled and the rest will be down-cycled (turned into a less valuable type of plastic which’ll then go to landfill after use). Jars are great for repurposing too, so there’s that.
- Don’t beat yourself up. It’s taken me over a year to get to this point, and I still have to throw stuff in the bin more than I’d like. But it’s about being better than you were last month, last week, even yesterday. Small changes are far likelier to stick than doing it in one fell swoop (I’m reminding myself here, as much as telling you!)
A really useful app for finding package-free products is the Bulk app (now a website) created by Béa Johnson of Zero Waste Home. You type in the area you want to search, then you have the option to pick the types of products you’re looking for (optional), and it shows you the locations on a map! I would encourage you to have a look if there’s anywhere near you.